Dateline: Vlore, Albania
Here at Nomad Capitalist, I spend a lot of time talking about the concept of going where you’re treated best.
At its most basic, this idea means seeking out places that have plentiful business opportunities, value your wealth, and suit your lifestyle.
However, for many people, this notion goes against everything that they’ve ever learned.
You see, the default position for most people is to rely on one country for all of their needs. We’re raised to live, bank, pay tax, get married, have kids, and live our lives in only one country.
Naturally, then, when people first learn about going offshore, they’re a bit perplexed.
If you’ve never thought about going offshore before, then you might be overwhelmed by all of the information that’s floating around out there. With one blog telling you that Panama is the answer to your problems and another telling you to put all of your money in a Swiss bank account, it’s easy to fall into analysis paralysis given all of the possibilities of going offshore.
And at that point, you might be wondering, “how can I actually do this in the real world?”
As someone who’s been right where you are now, I know how important it is to have specific examples of how you can start to diversify internationally so that you’re banking in the best place for banking and living in the best place for living, but since these places are often mutually exclusive, putting this offshore puzzle together can seem complicated.
So, in this article, my goal is to make going offshore seem a little less intimidating by giving you a three-part example of how you can get started – my global citizen sandwich.
What is a Global Citizen Sandwich?
Right now, you might be wondering, “why the heck is Andrew talking about sandwiches in an article about going offshore?”
You see, my global citizen sandwich is an analogy that I use to explain how I structure my international lifestyle.
The global citizen sandwich is based on the fact that most people who want to go offshore are looking to do three things: they want to keep more of their money, live a freer and happier life, and grow their wealth.
So, what does all of that involve?
To reach those goals, you’ll need to live in a place where you enjoy living (but is also tax-friendly), invest in a place where you can get the best returns, and store your money in a place with a high-quality banking system.
Your global citizen sandwich, then, will be made of three parts:
On the top, you’ll have the place where you’re storing your money and allowing your wealth to build. This place is likely to be a higher-end global city that will treat your money well like London, Zurich, or Singapore.
The contents in the middle are your everyday life – where you’re actually spending your time and how that plays into your tax strategy. For this part, you’ll want to find somewhere like that’s well-developed and livable without the high price tag of a larger, more established city, and you’ll want to be in a country with low-to-no taxes.
Finally, the bottom of your sandwich will be where you invest. This place might not be somewhere that you want to live or bank in, but it’s somewhere that you can get high returns if you’re willing to take a fair bit of risk.
Ultimately, the benefits of those two top pieces – banking in a high-quality jurisdiction and living in a tax-friendly place – will flow down to that bottom piece – where you invest your money for the best returns.
The Global Citizen Sandwich in the Real World
Now, to see how my global citizen sandwich works, let’s use a real-world example – my offshore strategy in Southeast Asia.
When I’m in Southeast Asia, I spend most of my time living in Kuala Lumpur, but I bank in Singapore and invest in Cambodia. Each of these places is well-suited to each of my goals, so with this global citizen sandwich, I’m going where I’m treated best by choosing countries and cities that fit my needs.
Therefore, in this section, I’ll use this example to walk you through how the global citizen sandwich actually works in the real world by telling you how and why I chose each country.
Living: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
For the meat of my global citizen sandwich, I choose to live in Kuala Lumpur.
I’ve talked about how Kuala Lumpur is an excellent place to live for years. You can get by easily with only English here, and it’s also relatively developed despite having a low cost of living. It’s also quite easy to get around Kuala Lumpur, which is important for me since I’m not exactly a fan of driving.
Another great thing about Malaysia is that it’s relatively tax-friendly. It’s a territorial tax country, which means that you only pay tax on locally-sourced income, and the taxes you do have to pay are quite low.
So, when deciding where you want to live, you want to find somewhere that’s both highly livable but will also play well into your offshore strategy, and for me, that place is Kuala Lumpur.
While I love living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia isn’t exactly the best place in the world to bank.
Granted, I do have a bit of money in a Malaysian bank as a part of my visa and to use for everyday things, but since banking in Malaysia means that I have quite a bit of foreign currency exposure, I don’t want to keep all of my wealth there.
Luckily, Singapore is right next door.
Currently, Singapore is perhaps the number one wealth hub in the world. Its banking is top-notch, and it has excellent private vault storage for everything from precious metals to art collections.
So, if I have the choice between putting all of my money in a Malaysian bank or traveling an hour and storing my wealth in Singapore, I’m going to choose Singapore.
Finally, let’s discuss the last piece of this puzzle – what do you do with all of your money once you’ve earned it?
When investing, you naturally want to seek out the places where you’re going to get the best returns, and unfortunately, neither Singapore nor Malaysia fit that bill.
Singapore is a highly developed country, which means that real estate is often expensive and returns aren’t very good. Malaysia is becoming a relatively developed country, and because there’s been so much property built there already, you won’t see good returns there, either.
You see, the best places to invest are going to be up-and-coming countries where you can get incredibly high returns, but those are places where you might not exactly want to live.
For me, that place is Cambodia.
I’ve talked about Cambodia for a long time as an excellent place to invest. Every time I visit the country, it’s more booming than it was before, and since the country uses US dollars as its primary currency, I don’t even need to change my money over to invest there.
There’s also plenty of great investment opportunities there. In fact, you can buy city center apartments in the capital, Phnom Penh, for remarkably low prices and earn huge rental yields and appreciation returns.
So, while I personally wouldn’t want to live there, Cambodia is an excellent place to invest thanks to its ultra-cheap property prices and rapidly growing economy.
Executing your Global Citizen Sandwich
Now that you understand how you can use the global citizen sandwich to create an internationally diversified lifestyle, it’s now time to make your own.
As you begin your offshore journey, keep in mind that you won’t be able to make your global citizen sandwich overnight. It shouldn’t be a PB&J that you slap together hastily – it should be a gourmet meal that takes time to prepare.
You also want to think holistically as you make your global citizen sandwich. If you plan on investing in Cambodia, for instance, then storing all of your wealth in Bermuda wouldn’t make much sense. You can’t blindly slap ingredients together and hope for the best in the world of offshore planning.
However, you don’t necessarily need to pigeonhole yourself into one particular region to make a cohesive offshore strategy. While people like the regional story like my Southeast Asia example, you can get away with living, banking, and investing just about anywhere if the pieces fit together.
If you want to live in Europe, for instance, you can live in tax-friendly Bulgaria while banking in Switzerland and investing in Armenia. The possibilities are almost endless.
So, with those considerations in mind, let’s talk about how you can start making your sandwich.
Open a Bank Account
One of the first steps that I often suggest is to open an offshore bank account.
To return to my Asia example, one of the things that I recommend if you want to set up a base in Southeast Asia is to travel to Singapore and open a bank account. If the bank asks you why you want to open the account, you can use the fact that you’re thinking of moving to and investing in the region as a perfectly valid reason.
The same goes for nearly any other country that you’d want to bank in, whether it’s Switzerland, the US, or Georgia.
For the most part, opening an offshore bank account is still relatively accessible for most people – especially if you’re planning on living in the region that you’re opening an account in. You may need to fill out more paperwork than in years past, but offshore banking is often a great way to dip your toe into a more diversified lifestyle.
Find a Place to Live (and Get a Residence Permit)
Your next step, then, would be to get a residence permit in a country where you want to live.
Determining where you want to go is mostly a matter of preference. Your ideal lifestyle is going to look different from mine or someone else’s, so your first priority when choosing where to live should be your needs.
However, there are two practical components of this decision that everyone should take into account – ease of immigration and tax-friendliness.
Getting a second residency is a bit more involved than opening up an offshore bank account. In addition to a country’s general livability, you’ll need to consider issues like investment requirements and potential for citizenship, and you must also look at how that residency will impact your tax planning.
Put simply, you don’t want to move to a country where you’ll be constantly battling with immigration to stay there, and you don’t want your residency to throw off your tax strategy. Peru, for instance, is a fairly livable country with an easy second residency program, but you’ll likely end up paying quite a bit in taxes there to maintain your residence permit.
These reasons are why Malaysia is the perfect place for me to go in Asia. I enjoy living in Kuala Lumpur on a personal level, but it also works for me on a practical level. I can easily get residency there through the MM2H investor visa program, and it’s a territorial tax country with relatively low taxes in general.
Seek Out Investment Opportunities
Once you’ve found a place to bank and a place to live, you can then get to the exciting part – seeking out investment opportunities abroad.
To find the best investment opportunities, you should look toward up-and-coming markets that might not be ideal places to live, but have experienced consistent growth over the past decade or so. While these markets certainly carry a good amount of risk, they also have the greatest potential for a large return on your investment since they’re often underpriced.
You’re going to find these types of markets in places like Cambodia, Colombia, and certain parts of Africa.
One of the best ways to invest abroad is to purchase cheap real estate in these kinds of growing markets. In Cambodia, for instance, you can buy apartments, commercial real estate, and even whole buildings for as little as $750 per square meter.
While this part of the process is certainly exciting, however, you might need some expert advice to do it right – particularly if you aren’t very familiar with the country that you’re investing in. In fact, my team and I often seek out local contacts when looking for investment opportunities for myself or my clients.
Expand your Offshore Strategy
After you’ve made your global citizen sandwich, your work shouldn’t be finished. Instead, you should use this strategy as the foundation of your broader offshore strategy for a wealthier, freer, and happier life.
Once you finally move your life offshore, an endless series of possibilities will open up to you. You might want to go and create an international CD ladder to grow your savings, or you may hunt for exciting investment opportunities around the globe.
Put simply, the global citizen sandwich isn’t the end-all-be-all of all offshore strategies. It is, however, a good way to get started planting flags around the world and building an international lifestyle.
If you’re thinking of taking the leap to go offshore and need a bit more direction, I recommend that you apply for a strategy call. My team and I have helped plenty of people just like you begin building a Nomad Capitalist lifestyle and go where you’re treated best.